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#1 of 14 Old 02-06-2013, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone-

 

As we were walking into school this morning, my sweet and very innocent 5 year old son said to me 'look mama, he's fat' while we passed an older boy (7th grader).

 

When I pointedly ignored the comment, and tried to hurry us along, he only repeated it, giggling.

 

Please understand he is not a mean child.  On the contrary, he is very sweet and loves everyone.  He was not making fun of this boy.  He was simply making an observation, and has no concept of how that would be hurtful.  

 

I pulled him close and whispered "we do not call people fat.  It's very naughty", and that was that.

 

My heart is aching for this older boy, whom I know has body image issues and appears to suffer from bouts of depression. (my daughter is friends with him, and his mother has discussed this with me in the past).  I HATE that he had to hear that this morning.  It seriously has ruined my day.. I can't stop thinking about what I should have done or said differently, or how this kid's day is probably now shot too, and how embarrassed he must feel.

 

Ugh....

 

I'm wondering what to do now, or what I could have done differently.  I would love suggestions or advice.  I do plan on having a talk with my son after school about how some words are hurtful and how we must keep some of our thoughts to ourselves.  I know he will be confused, as to him this is just fact.. observed and stated in complete innocence.  

 

Thoughts?  Ideas?  

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#2 of 14 Old 02-06-2013, 01:02 PM
 
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What I've tried to teach my kids is that you never, never comment on someone's physical appearance. They know what they look like, you don't need to tell them,and what is said can be hurtful. The only exception is to tell someone they are pretty/handsome.  Certainly as they age that rule will become more nuanced, but I hope that the groundwork is solid.

 

I don't think 5 is too young to be told how embarrassed you were, how it probably hurt the other child's feelings,  and how you hope he doesn't say it again to someone else.

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#3 of 14 Old 02-06-2013, 09:04 PM
 
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I feel ya.  We were staying at a friend's house in another state when my 4yo tried to back-handedly call our hostess fat and when we were not getting it loud and clear (I was, but trying to redirect) she came right out and said she was fat.

 

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I was beyond stunned.  Our family NEVER even TALKS about people being overweight (which is ironic given my job as a health coach--but truly, it just never comes up because I'm not usually dealing with that).

 

Our hostess was on her way into the shower and I sat my 4yo down (after my initial, very poor reaction shy.gif ) and explained to her that while our hostess IS indeed very big, "Guess what else is big about her?  Her brain... she can think really big, wonderful thoughts and ideas..." and went on to explain that our hostesses heart was also big--so she has SO MUCH love inside of her... and her lap is big--so she has lots of room to snuggle her babies.

 

Because for one, being large doesn't diminish the rest of the great things about them.  But for another, our own kids might grow up to struggle with their weight--and they need to see that it's not something that drives someone's worth... kwim?

 

When my kids start to get judgmental (or even if they're just curious about a topic that has tendency to get negativity in the mainstream), I try to turn it around on them and point out their strengths, or the benefits of their perceived difference/weakness.  We have good friends who have a fully autistic 16yo and my then 8yo had a lot of curiosity about it.  I got the idea that my ds was led to believe something negative about the 16yo.  We talked a lot about how the 16yo had to persevere to make himself understood sometimes--and how strong and smart he had to be to make his body work in ways it simply didn't work...

 

Hopefully they grow to find the value in people after doing this enough.  A girl can dream, right?


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#4 of 14 Old 02-07-2013, 07:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the responses.  We sat him down after school and I told him how we never, ever, EVER say that someone is fat.  He then started to cry (thinking he was in trouble I think), and said "but he is biiiiiig!".  I said yes, but we don't need to say it.  I also told him there are short people, tall people, little people and big people and everyone is different and we don't need to speak it out loud.  I was really fumbling... but I think he got the gist.

 

I did tell him he made the boy sad.  I also told him that I was sad too, because I knew the boy was sad.  He was perplexed (I still don't think he gets how being big, or being told you are fat can make someone sad).  Like I said, he is very innocent, and just now 'waking up' (waldorf) to the world around him.  

 

heatherdeg-  I too was obsessing about where he could have possibly heard the word 'fat'.  I came home all 'what the hell?', wondering where the heck he picked that up.  Then I remembered when we got our kittens (two long-haired fluff balls), and he would cuddle them and tell me "Mama the kitties are so fat!" as he pet them and loved on them.  I never corrected him, NEVER dreaming he would switch that adjective to a human being!Sheepish.gif  My bad.  

 

This will definitely be a work in progress for us.  I NEVER want to be in that spot again!  I like the suggestion Red Pajama about teaching him in strict terms what is ok to say out loud  (regarding appearances) and what is NOT.  Seems a very common sense thing to teach your children, and yet somehow I never thought to do it.  Live and learn!

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#5 of 14 Old 02-07-2013, 07:54 AM
 
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They learn to speak long before they learn social graces. The rule I had is to not talk about how another person looks, because it can hurt their feelings, even if it's true. If they want to say something about someone to the point where they feel unable to keep quiet, they can quietly whisper it in my ear.

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#6 of 14 Old 02-07-2013, 07:55 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fortune Teller View Post

 

I pulled him close and whispered "we do not call people fat.  It's very naughty", and that was that.

 

 

I'm wondering what to do now, or what I could have done differently. 

Calling people "fat" is only naughty if you know it is.  Your son was not being naughty, he just needs to learn some more social niceties, as does every 5yo.

 

We don't talk about people when they are within hearing distance.  We talk *to* them or we don't say anything.  Even something seemingly innocuous as "she has red hair" can be upsetting, and just that nobody likes being talked *about*, pretty much regardless of what's being said.  Some things, like weight, can be extra-sensitive to mention.  Err on the side of caution, and don't stare or talk about someone.  But do say "hello"!

 

ETA:   My sister always used to make comments about people on TV.  Sure, they can't hear her, but it drove me nuts...and then I had kids I was nearly insane with impatience for her to quit.  The lesson to learn here is that we can hear this stuff from people closest to us.  Children listen to what we say while watching TV, driving, talking on the phone.......  your son could have picked it up from anywhere.

 

Also, it's possible you might have caused the 7th grader just as much heartache if your pulling your son aside was obvious, depending on how it was done-- with a smile, or with abruptness and admonishment.  How we handle these situations says as much about the situation as anything else.  Stopping and gently saying "People don't like it if they know you are talking about them.  It makes them feels uncomfortable" is fine.  


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#7 of 14 Old 02-07-2013, 08:02 AM
 
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I agree it isn't naughty, but I don't even think you have to pick it up anywhere. To a kid who hasn't learned better, "Look at that lady! She's really fat!" is no different than "Look at that firetruck! It has a big ladder on it!" They're just observing, but don't know yet that those kinds of observations hurt people.

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#8 of 14 Old 02-07-2013, 11:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know he wasn't being naughty... and I know I could have handled it better.  I said that in complete shock and mortification.  I was caught totally unprepared, and I was horrified that the boy overheard.  Like I said, live and learn  smile.gif

 

I feel I was pretty discreet about it at the time, not wanting to add to the boy's embarrassment.  I was at least cognizant of that!  (yay for me!)

 

Sweetsilver-  your post reminded me of my children's aunts (husband's sisters).  We don't see them often, but they too are always commenting (negatively) on people's appearances.  I have even told my husband that I won't allow our kids to be subjected to that sort of negativity from his sisters, even if it means packing up and leaving early.  I don't think that is where my son picked it up, but it is definitely a good reminder to myself to be more vigilant about his exposure to them next time we see them.  

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#9 of 14 Old 02-08-2013, 04:56 AM
 
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Quote:

Calling people "fat" is only naughty if you know it is.  Your son was not being naughty, he just needs to learn some more social niceties, as does every 5yo.

 

I would tend to err on this side except for the giggling.

 

Did he hear this prior from someone else? That would be my first thought. 

 

As it's been pointed out fat is a normal word for a 5 year old - thin fat, big little, etc and you making him feel he was wrong I don't think is all that appropriate at this age even by saying how not to say anything without giving a clear reason as to why.

 

I would have a talk about it and find out who might have planted that seed in his head and also I would talk about fat. Fat is a term vs overweight and it make sense for him to think in those terms if you have not mentioned "overweight" prior. I would also mention to you that what you may not realize, is not only is he curious, he may have some real concerns as well.

 

With so much of the population overweight and morbid, not understanding how it occurs may wonder him- will he grow up and look like that? What causes it? Has he ever asked about a visible disability-blind, missing a limb? again, it's normal to wonder- what caused it, will it happen to me? He may not have said anything thus far about tall vs little people just because most everyone is tall to a 5 year old but not everyone yet is overweight to the point a 5 year old notices. What you take for granted maybe a concern you have no clue about.

 

 

 

Quote:
Also, it's possible you might have caused the 7th grader just as much heartache if your pulling your son aside was obvious, depending on how it was done-- with a smile, or with abruptness and admonishment.  How we handle these situations says as much about the situation as anything else.  Stopping and gently saying "People don't like it if they know you are talking about them.  It makes them feels uncomfortable" is fine.  

this is right but in your reply to SweetSilver you do not mention if you followed up - why does it make people feel uncomfortable if they are overweight? is a starting conversation I would hope you have with him, most 5 year old don't understand just saying those words in relationship to the issue


 

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#10 of 14 Old 02-08-2013, 05:31 AM
 
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My daughter, when very young, used to point out others in wheelchairs or missing limbs. It would be so obvious and of course made me feel horrible. I knew at that time that she just didn't understand why they looked different. I just had to consistly remind the kids to smile, be polite, and only talk to me in private about things those things.The only thing that you can do is explain why he should'nt say those things and remind him to be considerate to others. The real issue here is why hasn't that mom been proactive enough to help her son?


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#11 of 14 Old 02-08-2013, 09:05 AM
 
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perhaps your son might not get the whole idea fully. keep reinforcing it. i reminded my dd that words hurt. sometimes even worse than a slap. words sear your soul and stay there. you dont just want to eliminate fat. you want to eliminate other potentials too. 

 

the sad part is not so much your son calling the boy fat, but the laughing afterwards. THAT is the hurtful thing here. wonder if he saw some other boys do it and thought it would be cool to be part of that group. or does he think fat people are funny.  

 

show him how tone matters. 'you look so beautiful' just by change in tune could become an insult.

 

explain difference is not a reason to single out a person. 

 

perhaps here is a story he can listen to written by a 12 year old. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/500words/2012/stories/defining-moments/

 

when around that age i stopped my dd from saying stupid mama jokes and gave reasons and explanations - she thought i was being old fashioned. it was later she understood.

 

so talk to him. and keep that conversation going in different ways through time. and your son will understand bullying. a bridge to terabithia is the book and movie that taught dd that bullies are actually sad people.  


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#12 of 14 Old 02-08-2013, 09:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the thoughtful replies.

 

I should add that his giggling, which no doubt added to the hurt and embarrassment of the boy, was not done in mean-spiritness.  My son is a giggler.  Seriously-  We walk to school, and it goes like this:  "Mama, those birds are loud!" *giggle*.   "It's a BEAUTIFUL day!"  *gjggle*.  "Mama those babies are SO CUTE!"  *giggle*... unfortunately his giggly observations just didn't stop there.  

 

He is not learning or observing bullying behavior from anyone, or trying to be cool.  He is just observing and sharing his world, with no filter.  That is where my job in this begins, I guess.  And in a way that makes it harder-  having to penetrate the veil of innocence to guide him, whereas if it was just him being mean I think it would be easier to confront and call him out on it.

 

Serenbat-  I get what you are saying, but it just doesn't apply to my little one.  He is not making those connections yet (concerned that someday he might be overweight).  

 

I will definitely continue educating him on what is ok to share out loud and what is not.  Obviously he is ready for (and needing) that guidance.  I think preventative maintenance is much preferable to damage control  duh.gif

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#13 of 14 Old 02-08-2013, 10:18 AM
 
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Serenbat-  I get what you are saying, but it just doesn't apply to my little one.  He is not making those connections yet (concerned that someday he might be overweight).  

I stated that because at 4 both of mine were aware and asked about this and the other examples I gave (blind, missing, even gray hair was a topic, etc).


 

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#14 of 14 Old 02-13-2013, 11:13 AM
 
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My kids both have been ridiculous with this stuff lately. My 6 year old loudly told her after school counselor that he had very yellow teeth! And my 4 year old told a cashier at the local greenhouse that she was a "very wrinkly old lady". UGH! In some ways I think it's innocent but my kids have now gotten enough talkings to that I think they are relishing in the reactions. I told my kindergartener that its bullying behaviors and that seemed to get through to her.
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